April 1, 2020
By Çağlayan Arkan
Vice President, Manufacturing Industry, Microsoft
We are hearing from our manufacturing customers around the globe about how the outbreak of COVID-19 is creating new challenges as they work to handle drastic shifts in materials supply and customer demand, and manage factory closures, while contributing to the production of critical supplies to first-line responders across the globe.
While many manufacturers face challenging disruptions to supply and demand in their businesses, some are reconfiguring their production, supply chains, and services to deliver critical supplies such as:
- A consortium of major UK industrial, technology, and engineering businesses from across the aerospace, automotive, and medical sectors have come together to produce medical ventilators for the National Health Service (NHS). The supply chain of the ventilators is being supported by Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management, and Microsoft worked with Accenture to launch it in just three weeks.
- Schneider Electric has joined forces with Air Liquide, Groupe PSA, and Valeo to produce 10,000 Air Liquide Medical Systems respirators in France.
- Chinese automaker BYD, the world’s largest electric vehicle manufacturers applied its R&D to alleviate shortages that affected hospitals and agencies across China and built the World’s largest face mask manufacturing plant that is now producing 5 million masks and 300,000 bottles of disinfectants per day.
- Honeywell is sharing its best practices at its own manufacturing facilities, and what it’s doing to address the shortage of N95 face masks.
- Rockwell Automation has shared its commitment to supporting its manufacturing customers and their supply chains with ongoing services.
- Siemens has also been at the forefront of addressing face mask production in China and is sharing its COVID-19 recommendations for manufacturers.
- Bloom Energy, Almo, and the State of California are partnering to refurbish ventilators for the U.S. healthcare system.
- Sandvik Coromant is working overtime to supply precision wire to ventilator manufacturers.
Microsoft applauds all of these amazing leaders and their innovative work.
Getting critical products delivered to where they are most needed
However, we know that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to rise every day. We have not yet reached the peak in terms of the number of global infections. When we do, it’s predicted that we are going to face a huge shortage of equipment, supplies, and consumables. Estimates are that production capacity will need to ramp up by 20 to 500 times to cope with what is ahead of us. Moreover, we will need to find intelligent, effective ways to provide goods where and when they are needed. This is an incredible challenge.
Microsoft has been in discussions with partners, customers, and industry associations around the globe to help support new, innovative ideas and plans to deal with what is ahead of us. This includes the National Association of Manufacturers, which has been assigned by the government to lead the manufacturing response in the U.S., as well as many other partners, public and private alike.
COVID-19 response: Services and guidance for your business
In addition to this work, I also want to share key resources, solutions, and best practices from Microsoft that can help to address your immediate priorities and needs during these challenging times:
Supporting remote work
For those engineers, information workers, and first-line workers who are working from home, we can enable remote collaboration and productivity:
- Microsoft Teams allow you to work remotely without feeling remote. Teams of 10 or 10,000 can chat, meet, call, and collaborate—all from one place, no matter where they are. If you’re a current Office 365 subscriber, you already have access to Microsoft Teams, and now is a great time to deploy to support your transition to remote work.
- We have compiled expertise and guidance to optimize remote work environments from our own experience over the last few weeks.
- We are also sharing the comprehensive work-from-home guide we created for our own employees, which you can tailor for your own organization.
- Get connected with our Enabling Remote Work community to stay up-to-date on best practice sharing for all employees.
- Enable employees with a virtual desktop experience such as engineers working on product and production changes to work on Azure with Microsoft 365 (WVD) from anywhere with advanced cloud-connected management capabilities to allow IT to stay in control while providing a secure, always up-to-date productivity experience.
Supporting employee safety
To help you focus on the health and well-being of your employees and access the most current data, situation reports, and analysis:
- You can leverage this Crisis Communication App with steps to quickly build and implement an app for your organization to coordinate information-sharing and collaboration in response to evolving conditions.
- Use the Bing Coronavirus Tracker with the latest fact-based information, statistics, and news on the current state of the virus.
- Build your own dashboards with your own proprietary data customized for specific geographies using the Azure Maps COVID-19 OpenSource Project for Healthcare Agencies.
Supporting remote assistance for frontline employees and customers
To remotely assist those workers who are still needed on the manufacturing frontline and supporting customers operations, Microsoft and partners such as BluePrism, PTC, Realwear, and Tulip have announced programs for customers engaged in COVID-19 related activities:
- Dynamics 365 Customer Service, enables contact center employees to provide consistent, personalized support while working remotely. Customers are taking advantage of the ability to gain insights into case volume topics, ensuring agents are properly distributed across channels, and quickly deploying chatbots that are trained to respond to the highest volume of inquiries.
- Dynamics 365 Remote Assist allows field technicians and engineers to collaborate with colleagues and experts from different locations, reducing travel and resolving some of the immediate obstacles facing us all. Dynamics 365 Customer Service or Dynamics 365 Remote Assist may be available free of charge for up to 6 months if you are implementing a solution in response to COVID-19, either on a Microsoft-provided template or custom implementation.
- To increase the predictability and reliability of the work being performed by manufacturers the Blue Prism COVID-19 Response Program is taking applications for their robotic process automation (RPA) resources to help maintain critical business continuity.
- To provide technical support to your manufacturing and service employees, PTC is making their Vuforia Chalk augmented reality (AR) remote support and collaboration technology freely available to their customers and partners to use through June.
- RealWear has contributed its headset technology to the medical effort in China and just announced its integration with Microsoft Teams, enabling industrial workers to use both hands for complex work procedures while remotely collaborating with subject matter experts wherever they are in the world.
- Tulip has just announced that they are offering support and free use of their manufacturing app platform to any manufacturer or open-source manufacturing effort engaged in fighting COVID-19. They are actively working with pharma customers and others who are repurposing their factories to make medical-grade supplies. Their focus is on enabling remote work, GxP/GMP support for clinical trials as well as production, using Tulip to mitigate, crowd control, triage vitals, and on ramping up new manufacturing lines fast with their no-code app builder and templates.
These are just some of the ways that Microsoft and our partners are working to support the health and safety of our communities as well as help you to ensure business continuity and mitigate risk.
You can find the latest information, updates, and resources from Microsoft: Responding to COVID-19 together. Also, I encourage you to read the recent post on LinkedIn from Satya Nadella on his current perspective and how Microsoft is working to support employees, customers, partners and communities.
On a personal note, to say that we are all are navigating our way through unchartered waters is an understatement. We are all in this together as a global community, learning each day from the crisis at hand. I am very inspired by the amazing work across our company, customers and partners to come together across industries, businesses, governments, health providers and more to mobilize technology to inform, empower, protect, and engage as we all work together to accelerate progress for solutions to the pandemic.
I want you to know that Microsoft is here to listen, learn, and do all that we can to assist you and your business during this difficult time.